Birkat Hachamah, a special Jewish blessing over the sun, takes place once every 28 years.
It is believed in the Jewish faith that on Apr. 8, the sun will return to the exact position it held at the moment of creation. Rabbi Shmary Brownstein, of the Chabad of Davis, will perform the blessing at 8:30 a.m. on the UC Davis quad.
“According to the Torah, the sun was put into the sky on the fourth day; a Wednesday. It would take 28 years for [the sun] to return to the same position,” said Rabbi Brownstein.
Through a series of complex astronomical calculations, the third century sage Shmuel calculated the length of the solar year, thus determining when the sun would return to its exact position when it was created.
Rabbi Brownstein summarized the mathematical calculations.
“The length of a solar year is 365 and one-fourth days, roughly 52 weeks plus one and one-fourth days. It thus follows that one year after the creation, when the sun returned to its original position, it would be one day and six hours later in the week. After two years, it would be two days and twelve hours later in the week. It would take 28 years for the sun to return to the position it held at creation, at the same time,” said Rabbi Brownstein.
According to Rabbi Brownstein, this celebration has taken place for thousands of years.
“This tradition of blessing the sun comes from the Talmud, the basic work of wisdom. It prescribes several blessings on different occasions. You name it, there’s a blessing for it. We’re talking about a blessing that has been happening for the last 1500 to 2000 years,” Rabbi Brownstein said.
The ceremony consists of recitations from the Torah specifically, a few of the Psalms – a special prayer, and a few songs. The ceremony should not take more than half an hour.
“The ceremony is very basic. It is going to entail a recitation from sections of the Torah regarding the creation [of the earth], then there will be the blessing of the sun, and finally, some singing,” said Rabbi Brownstein.
Rabbi Brownstein insists that it is very important for people partaking in Birkat Hachamah to not look directly at the sun. While parishioners will be praising the sun, its UV rays are still very hurtful to the eyes, he said.
While Birkat Hachamah is a Jewish tradition, all students are welcome to come and celebrate the creation of the sun.
“I’m sure that non-Jewish students will be there. It’s an opportunity where all people can get together and reflect on how much we enjoy having the sun,” Rabbi Brownstein said.
Aaron Sherman, a sophomore international relations major, thinks that this is a very unique opportunity for students to experience.
“The question is: Why isn’t it important to celebrate the sun? [This blessing] is not something that most college students have heard of. It’s great that we’re being given the opportunity to celebrate something that comes around once every 28 years,” Sherman said.
Laura Weissberger, a junior double majoring in international relations and economics, said she is very excited to attend the Birkat Hachamah, a blessing she only recently learned about.
“[The blessing] was not something I was aware of until late last year. I think it’s really special that we get to experience this point and time where the sun is in the exact same place as it was during creation,” Weissberger said.
This year’s Birkat Hachamah is rare, not because it only occurs once every 28 years, but because it falls on the night before the beginning of Passover.
“This time around is very unique because it happens on the eve of Passover. It’s a very special coincidence,” said Rabbi Brownstein. “We will be announcing the times of our Passover services at the end of the blessing.“
Weissberger, who plans on attending the blessing, invites all students to come to the Brikat Hachamah.
“It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often, so we ought to take advantage of it,” she said.
MEGAN ELLIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.